NEW YORK — Throughout the many obstacles of a long baseball season, the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse is usually flowing with optimism, even during the toughest moments.
But following a deflating 2-0 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, there was a sense inside a tension-filled visiting clubhouse that opportunity might be starting to slip away as the calendar turns to September.
A jarring sense of realism hit the Orioles (71-63) as they dropped to fourth place in the American League East standings for the first time since June 8, surpassed by the Yankees (72-63), who won their sixth straight home game thanks to Ivan Nova’s first career shutout.
Baltimore managed just three hits — all singles. In the first five games of their nine-game road trip, the Orioles have scored just 13 runs, their lowest offensive production of any five-game stretch this season.
And after losing four of their past five and dropping each of the first two series of the road trip against the Boston Red Sox and Yankees, the Orioles’ playoff hopes are dwindling.
“We need to play good,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “We don’t have long. We don’t have a whole lot left. The back’s kind of up against the wall. We need to start playing good baseball.”
The Orioles have also lost seven of their past 12 series. They’ve now lost all three series this season at Yankee Stadium after winning all three in New York last season. They are just eight games over .500 for the first time since July 10. Baltimore is just 18-20 since the all-star break.
Despite one of right-hander Scott Feldman’s best performances since coming to the Orioles — he held the Yankees to one run and six hits over seven innings — Baltimore was unable to take advantage of Feldman’s fourth straight start of allowing two or fewer earned runs. Feldman has a 1.88 ERA over that span.
Three batters into the game, the Yankees took a 1-0 lead on Robinson Cano’s one-out RBI double to right field. But Feldman allowed just four hits after that. Feldman worked his cutter and sinker to induce several critical groundouts, including a pair of rally-killing double plays from Derek Jeter to end both the fifth and seventh innings.
Everything was working for Nova, who has back-to-back complete-game wins against the Orioles and is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season.
The Orioles mounted just one true threat against Nova (8-4), putting the first two hitters on base in the second inning after Adam Jones was hit by a pitch and Matt Wieters hit a single. But Nick Markakis hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
“I think he had the best sinker I’ve seen him have in the many times we’ve faced him,” Wieters said of Nova. “He was down, he was able to use his sinker to get a lot of ground balls. His curveball is his pitch that I think has come on lately but his sinker what was able to get him some early outs and that was able to get him deep in the game.”
The Orioles didn’t get another hit until Manny Machado’s two-out single in the sixth and had just four baserunners after Wieters’ second-inning single.
Now Baltimore must regroup to avoid a sweep and build some momentum heading into another important series in Cleveland against the Indians.